Spotlight On: X-Men

The newest Spotlight On takes a look back at the X-Men films.

The original X-Men film can take some credit for starting the recent superhero craze.  Each film has had its own different voice, scored by a different composer - Michael Kamen, John Ottman, John Powell, Harry Gregson-Williams and Henry Jackman.  

Joining the series is Marco Beltrami's The Wolverine and Days of Future Past (with a return of composer John Ottman).  

Until then, here's a look back on the X-Men franchise score by score. 

X-Men (2000)
Music by Michael Kamen 
Featuring a nice fanfare theme, a traditional orchestra is supplemented a lot by electronics. Notable are the moments with Wolverine and Rogue and the haunting theme for Magneto.  (Just listen to: Death Camp, The X-Jet, Museum Fight, Logan and Rogue

X2: X-Men United (2003)
Music by John Ottman
Director's usual Ottman took over for this much-improved sequel.  Ottman provided a new thematic fanfare great choral and percussion effects and several themes for the mutants, notable for Jean Grey, Mystique, Rogue, and Magneto. (Just listen to: Suite from X2, Storm's Perfect Storm, Rogue Earns Her Wings, Goodbye)

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Music by John Powell
Powell followed in Ottman's thematic formula, while not using any past material.  We get a new heroic theme (in the same style as several other superhero films) and a great major theme in 'Whirlpool of Love'.  While the action writing is over-the-top in places, Powell's theme for Dark Phoenix works well, as well as the elegiac moments of the score.  (Just listen to: Bathroom Titles, Whirlpool of Love, The Funeral, The Last Stand)

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
Music by Harry Gregson-Williams
With no connections to past scores, Gregson-Williams took over with this origin story.  Logan gets a solid theme, but it doesn't really stand out throughout the film.  The other theme is romantic for the love interest, Kayla.  The score features some nice choral and piano moments, but suffers with the generic action material.  (Just listen to: Logan Through Time, Special Privileges, Kayla, “…I’ll Find My Own Way”)

X-Men: First Class (2011)
Music by Henry Jackman
Taking over for this prequel/reboot Jackman utilized electronic guitars and loops nicely in addition to the traditional blockbuster orchestra sound.  There is a surplus of ostinato action scenes, which get tiresome by the end.  His foreboding Magneto theme and X-Men theme work best in the score.  In flashback, Kamen's music from the Concentration Camp does make an appearance.  (Just listen to: First Class, Frankenstein's Monster, X-Training, Mutant and Proud, Magneto)

The Wolverine (2013)
Music by Marco Beltrami
Rather than the superhero styles of the previous films, Beltrami created a brooding, menacing sound.  Delving into Logan's mind, we get a moody and dissonant sound for most of the score.  We also get interesting electronics, hints of Japanese styling, and the jarring sounds of a harmonica.  (Just listen to: Trusting, The Hidden Fortress, Sword of Vengeance, Where To?)  

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Music by John Ottman
Returning to the mutant world, Ottman introduces new themes for Xavier and incorporates the First Class theme and his X2 main theme.  There are many emotional soft moments, in addition to the loud blockbuster sound.  (Just listen to: Hope (Xavier’s Theme), Do What You Were Made For, Welcome Back – End Titles)

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
Music by John Ottman
Much of this score stays dark and menacing, representing Apocalypse's character and darker plotlines.  Choir accentuates the large orchestral moments with some lovely solos in the quiet moments.  The souped up arrangement of a Beethoven symphony is a neat highlight.  (Just listen to: New Pyramid, Contacting Eric/The Answer!, You’re X-Men)

Dark Phoenix (2019)
Music by Hans Zimmer
Zimmer and friends created hours of experimentation for the film.  Ultimately the film gets a largely dark ambient score.  The main themes are all new, with nothing repeating from past films.  The score creates tension with the orchestra chugging, electronic sounds and pounding percussion.  The choral chanting and ethereal boy soloist are effective.  More of his collaborator's arrangements are heard on the Xperiments album.      
(Just listen to: Gap, Reckless, Insertion, Coda)

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